Launched in the summer of 2018, the Philadelphia Catholic Scholars Program is a new initiative to introduce young men to the riches of the Catholic tradition. Spending 10 days living in seminary dorms, attending daily Mass and prayer, and daily seminar classes, participants are invited into the great conversation of the western tradition.
During the program, students engage the great minds of the Catholic theological and philosophical tradition, gaining a deeper understanding of themselves and their faith while drawing nearer to our Lord through both prayer and study.
We have been surprised that several people, though excited about the PCSP, have asked us “why did you start this?” The short answer is “why not?”
The longer answer is that we are interested in combatting the regrettable trend of young people leaving the faith. Too many Catholics abandon their faith because of its (supposed) conflict with science or its general insignificance in their lives. This is a terrible tragedy.
During the PCSP, young men learn not only the profound sophistication of Catholic thought, but also its profound significance for their lives. Engaging the faith intellectually and spiritually is not, however, presented as a duty, but as an opportunity. The great minds that students meet during the PCSP excite us and invite us to engage more deeply and more seriously.
More than this, too many of us find ourselves occupying too small of a world. Absent meeting the great texts of the past, we find our horizons limited by social media and contemporary thought. While these things are not bad in themselves, they present a world so much narrower and less interesting than what is at our fingertips if we just open the great books that the Church has preserved for us. Students emerge from the PCSP occupying a “large room,” finding themselves in a world much grander and more exciting than they may have been used to.
Our goal, at the end of the day, is to invite young men into the “great and glorious” kingdom of literature, philosophy, and theology, and to help them see the important connection between their intellectual and spiritual lives. We are cultivating a “smart Catholicism.”
Is the PCSP a vocations camp?
While under the aegis of the vocations office for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the PCSP is not primarily a vocations camp. Students are invited to consider God’s call and have the opportunity to meet with the vocations director—but our goal is not first of all to increase vocations, but to inspire a deeper engagement with our Catholic faith. Moreover, the PCSP is open to, and has been attended by, both Catholics and Protestants.
The PCSP is committed to the safety and well-being of all participants, and will comply with all safe environment norms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. All faculty and chaperones will be mandated reporters and will have completed the Veritas training. Students will be adequately supervised with program staff to accompany them on campus and during field trips; chaperones will oversee the dorms in the evening.